Are you getting enough sleep?
Research from the National Sleep Foundation suggests that the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, to function at their best.
If you are a new parent, it’s very unlikely that you’re getting anywhere near this much! Chances are, you’re feeling more than a little sleep deprived.
When I was pregnant, I remember everyone telling me to ‘enjoy the sleep’ I was getting because it would be gone soon.
I would laugh because I was up all night with terrible heartburn getting kicked in the pelvis. I thought they were exaggerating. I wasn’t prepared.
Sleep deprivation and how to survive it
Sleep deprivation is probably one of the most, if not the most, challenging thing to deal with as a new parent. In the beginning, it’s not too bad.
You know you’re not getting as much sleep as you need, but it’s manageable. You can cope. And then it hits you.
You start feeling like you’re walking around in a fog, finding yourself doing things like pouring cereal into your coffee mug or trying to make tea with cold water!
You want to cry when the baby wakes you up for the 4th time in the night and start to feel a deep rage for your partner who somehow has the incredible ability to sleep through the sounds of a screaming baby.
There’s no sugar coating it. Sleep deprivation sucks. And it’s unavoidable.
Your baby might be the cutest, cleverest, most adorable beautiful baby to have ever been born. But he/she will still keep you awake at night. And that’s completely normal and natural.
But how are you supposed to cope?
You’re tasked with keeping your incredibly dependant new born baby fed, clothed, warm, safe and loved, and you feel like you haven’t got the energy to make it to the shower, let alone keep a brand new human alive.
I’m sorry to say there is no easy fix. You will be tired, and you will still somehow manage.
Aside from drinking ALL THE COFFEE, there are a few things you can do that might help you make it through the tough times without smothering your partner because they started snoring just as you finally managed to fall asleep.
Don’t be afraid to accept help
If someone is willing to watch the baby or take them for a walk while you get some much needed rest or even just wash your hair for the first time that week, say yes!
If somebody offers to bring you food so you don’t have to cook – take it!
It’s so easy let pride take over and think you should be able manage on your own, but honestly, you need as much help you can get, and the people that love you will be happy to help you out. You can return the favour later.
Get some help with night feeds
This is a little more tricky if you’re breastfeeding, but if you can express milk or you bottle feed, your partner/relative/anyone willing can help with the night feeds, letting you get a few more hours of sleep in one go.
For example, you could feed the baby at 10 pm, go to bed and let your partner do the next feed at say midnight or 1 am. This will allow you to sleep until the next feed is due, giving you maybe 5 hours uninterrupted sleep.
Use whatever timings work best for you and your baby’s routine. Getting that bit extra sleep can make all the difference!
To be honest we struggled for a long time to find bottles that our babies would take, but it was definitely worth the perseverance. My eldest daughter really took to the Medela Calma bottles, but my youngest wouldn’t take anything until we tried these Mam bottles. (They are fab because they also self sterilise in the microwave which saves a lot of faff.
Sleep when the baby sleeps
I know, I know, you’ve heard this before! And in all honesty, this is something lots of people struggle to do.
But if this is your first baby (it becomes impossible when you’ve other children), getting some sleep while the baby sleeps could really help you feel better.
If you’re anything like me you might struggle to sleep in the daytime, or think of a million other things you could be doing, but if you have the opportunity to get that extra sleep, it’s definitely worth a try.
Seriously, the housework can wait.
Take a break and make time for you
If you’re really struggling, it might be worth trying to find friends or family who are willing to take the baby overnight so you can get a proper nights sleep.
There is absolutely NO shame is admitting you’re finding things tough. Having a new baby IS tough.
You need to look after yourself if you want to be able to take the best care of your baby. The tiredness can become so overwhelming that you end up struggling to take care of yourself and end up feeling down and depressed.
I remember breaking down in tears once because I actually couldn’t remember the last time I washed my hair. Getting some sleep and a bit of time to take care of yourself can give you that lift you need to feel able to carry on.
Remember ‘this too shall pass’
It might sound cliche and trite but it’s true. Whilst at the moment this probably seems like an all-encompassing, endless phase of life, I promise, it does get better!
I say this as somebody only just emerging from what seemed like a never-ending cycle of sleeplessness. Having a 4 year old, a 2 year-old who was never a good sleeper, and a new baby, resulted in me being woken up an average of 7 times a night.
Some nights were slightly better and some were much worse. My all-time record is 24 times. I’m not exaggerating. But, my 2 year old has started sleeping through, my baby no longer wakes every 2 hours for a feed and I’m slowly starting to feel alive again!
Sleep deprivation is awful. Really awful. But you will survive! Eventually your baby will learn to sleep, you’ll forget what these days were like and you might even find yourself looking back on the ‘baby days’ with nostalgia!